Brooks Koepka joins Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus with rare single-year domination of major golf
Koepka has ended an all-time great major season with just one trophy but four top-four finishes
Brooks Koepka teed it up against 551 golfers in the four major championships this season. He lost to five of them. Total. The means he beat or tied 99.1 percent of golfers he faced in the four most important events of 2019.
Koepka closed out his time at Royal Portrush and the 2019 Open Championship with a 3-over 74 on Sunday in what were (at times) nasty conditions. That left him at 6-under 278 for the week. It was his worst score of the four 2019 majors and also his worst finish this seasosn as he slid into T4 alongside Lee Westwood.
At the Masters, Koepka finished T2, one back of Tiger Woods. He won the PGA Championship by two over Dustin Johnson. He finished solo second at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, three back of Gary Woodland.
We love to talk about major wins (we should!), and it's true that Koepka only won one of the four this year. But to beat or tie 99.1 percent of the golfers you face in the year's toughest tests is far more impressive than winning any single major.
There were only 16 golfers who made the cut at all four majors this year. That's not a remarkable number. In fact, that's around the number that normally make the cut at all four majors because -- surprise! -- making the cut at all four majors is exceptionally hard.
Koepka was the runaway leader in score to par of those 16. His 36-under number was more than twice as good as Xander Schauffele and Dustin Johnson (-14). That's astounding. Johnson is the second-ranked player in the world! Xander is No. 11!
Koepka's four finishes this year are part of a bigger run. He has finished in the top six in nine of the last 12 majors and in the top 10 in 12 of his last 21. Both amazing numbers. He's not a one-year wonder, and this is not an 18-month heater. He has become the most feared golfer in the world at any big event, and 2019 was simply the final proof of that.
It was an historically significant season, too. Only Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Jack Nicklaus have ever accomplished what Koepka just did by finishing inside the top four in all four majors of a single year. And it somehow feels like we're underrating the entire accomplishment.
|Major||Nicklaus in 1973||Woods in 2005||Spieth in 2015||Koepka in 2019|
For the first time in 2019, the PGA Championship was held before the U.S. Open.
I still don't know how to reconcile Major Brooks with Non-Major Brooks (see stat below) other than to appreciate his unique ability to zero in on the big four. Maybe that reconciliation will only come with time.
For now, I'm in awe of the major year we just witnessed. He finished five humans away from a grand slam in a single year (Jordan Spieth, by the way, finished four humans away in 2015). Because it didn't happen sequentially like it did with Spieth in 2015, it may not have gotten the credit it deserved.
But it does mean one thing: For now, and into the future until something happens to change the reality of the current major championship hierarchy, Koepka should be the favorite at every major that's played. At Augusta National, on links courses, on the moon, wherever you want to hold these things. Nobody flights it better or has more control over his game and his shots on major setups than Koepka.
The scariest part if you're part of the rest of the field is that Koepka seems to only care about playing well in these four events. He's setting himself up for a decade of contention at majors by not burning himself out mentally or physically at the other events. That might be confusing, and it might not be super popular -- especially given his "I'm the best ball-striker alive" swagger -- but it's also true. Which means we could see this level of performance again in 2020 and who knows how many years after that.
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